I’ve spent at least part of each of the last four evenings sitting at the coffee table, watching whatever, sharpening plane blades and chisel blades.
I started with my small palm-handled carving chisels. I’ve never really had much luck putting the kind of edge on them I think I should have, so this was a really good chance to just sit there and work on them until I was truly happy with how they looked and felt. I have a few I’d purchased a few weeks ago off of E-Bay to fill in some of my missing basic profiles (we can save discussion on my E-Bay addiction for a later blog), and they were already sharpened (they weren’t brand new and being sold by a user who moved up to a better set), so I had something to base my other chisels on, and I think that helped a lot. I’m looking forward to getting out in the shop and trying them out.
Of course I also had to lap and sharpen my #220 plane blade, as discussed in a previous blog.
And then I pulled out my new set of chisels. They aren’t anything fancy, like expensive Matsamura Blue Steel Japanese chisels or even Lie-Nielson or Two Cherries; they’re just a (pretty much) full set of the Irwin/Marple Blue Chip chisels. Until this point, I’ve gotten away with some older Buck Brothers and unnamed mismatched chisels that were not even close to a complete or well-organized matching set. On one of the Frank Klausz videos, he actually talks about the Blue Chip chisels and says how good they are for a modern-made chisel, though he mentions one might want to saw off a part of the handle to improve the balance. I might have to watch that video a few more times to get the nerve up to actually do such a thing… Has anyone else seen that video and have you attempted to saw off the ends of the handles? If so, how did to a) get the nerve to take a saw blade to the handle of a newly sharpened and honed chisel and b) determine where to saw?
I picked up the basic 4-pack (1/4”, ½”, ¾”, and 1”) at Woodcraft during one of their standard sales and then added the 1/8”, 3/8”, and 5/8” chisels to my Amazon wish list. I got those three from various people for Valentine’s Day, believe it or not (two from my wife and one from my mother-in-law – boy do they know how to earn points in my book!). I decided to pick up the 1 ¼” the other day, just to round the set off to an even eight and give me a nice, wide chisel for paring tenons and trimming mortise holes.
I’d just received the final two from Dana last night, so I decided to take a bit of time to start lapping the backs. Since they all needed to be done, and I hate flipping back and forth between stones (err… diamond plates, really), I wanted to wait until I had the lot of them before I started.
Last night I spent a bit of time getting the initial flat back on the coarse diamond stone. The thinner ones didn’t take too long, but once I got up to ¾” wide and larger, each one did take a bit of time. That’s always the most time-consuming part of it, too. Now that they are all lapped flat, it won’t take me nearly as long to run them through the higher grits.
One of my Christmas presents from Dana was a smaller two-sided ceramic stone. It works fabulously for putting a keen edge on my pocket knife and it worked really well on getting a reflective gleam to the carving knives, too. The problem is, it is a little small and I’m not so sure I’ll be able to use it for the larger chisels.
Wayne Barton is a chip carver. He’s from somewhere in the Midwest… Illinois or Ohio, maybe? Anyway, he has a really good pair of chip carving knives (which I have) with some of the most comfortable handles I’ve ever felt on a woodworking knife. He also sells a pair of fine and extra-fine ceramic stones (I think the extra-fine is equivalent to an 8000 grit water stone) that would be perfect for what I need. They are a little pricy at $45 for the pair, but I think I might just add them to my wish list and see if I can’t get them for my birthday.
Anyway… a few more nights at the coffee table should see me with a full set of chisels, just waiting to take out nice, small, clean shavings of wood.
But now I need to think about something… When I’m working on my tool chest, I’ll have a drawer with fitted spaces for the chisels, but I wonder how I’m going to transport these chisels if I ever need to take them to a class. Maybe I’ll just invest in a canvas chisel roll. Better yet, I could always make my own chisel roll out of some leather I have sitting in the basement – a good, thick burgundy latigo. Or maybe I could figure out a way to make that drawer removable and have a lid I could either slide on (as if it were a sliding lid box) or attach for travel. Interesting ideas to think about!
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com